The concept of a brand is something that is perceived as almost subconsciously.
For example, when you think of a brand name like Apple, Coca Cola, Toyota, or Gucci, you probably have images and word associations that instantly pop into your mind.
- For Apple, you will think of its products like the iPhone or MacBook. Words like chic or innovative may come to mind.
- For Coca Cola, chances are you immediately envision a glass bottle with the white and red label. You probably associate words like delicious, classic, and refreshing with this brand.
- Toyota is a brand name that you will most likely associate with vehicles, like the classic Camry sedan. Often people will describe Toyota as safe or reliable.
- Gucci’s brand is the definition of luxury and affluence. Their items are often brightly colored, adorned with golden accessories, and of course, the famous double G symbol.
It is no accident that you have these brand associations for each company.
They are not a result of chance; each of these businesses has carefully created these characteristics by taking things just a step further than traditional marketing.
This is where brand storytelling comes in.
Every business has a story to tell, but the ways they tell it are not always as obvious as you may think.
So, what is Brand Storytelling?
According to Marketing Insider Group, the definition of brand storytelling is “using a narrative to connect your brand to customers, with a focus on linking what you stand for and the values you share with your customers.”
Essentially, this is the process by which a company tells its customers what it is, what it values, and what assumptions consumers should have towards the brand. When a business does this successfully, you will see it throughout every part of their marketing – even down to the subtle details.
Telling stories is one of the most powerful ways that humans (and businesses) can effectively communicate. Stories often evoke an emotional response and it quickly gets us invested – two things that can really help a company close a sale with a customer.
What is the Difference Between Brand Storytelling and Content Marketing?
Content marketing is a far-reaching avenue through which a business can share stories to support their brand. Brand storytelling is a type of content marketing – but not all content marketing is storytelling.
For example, this J. Crew ad is simply announcing a new product offering. While it can definitely classify as content marketing, it really has nothing to say about the brand itself in the way of storytelling.
While most businesses utilize content marketing in some form, B2B organizations tend to focus on long-form content to improve SEO through keyword inclusion and drive in relevant traffic.
According to a report from CMI, 74% of B2B organizations are focused on creating long-form content – with 90% of marketers agreeing that it is the format that yields the best content marketing ROI for their business.
On the other hand, B2C companies far prefer using shorter content formats, with 68% creating social media story content and just over half using long-form content, like guides and articles.
Brand storytelling is done through some sort of content, whether it be blog posts, videos, commercials, or other forms of advertisement – most of which fall under the umbrella of content marketing.
Just like the name implies, brand storytelling is quite literally telling customers about a brand through content.
For example, you can see how Cisco has used content marketing as a storytelling platform with their IoT Customer Stories. One story focused on how the Alaska Department of Transportation uses Cisco’s technology to keep people safe on the roads during dangerous weather conditions.
This shows customers how useful Cisco’s technology is through a true story – making it far easier for customers to relate to. Additionally, it is much more interesting than if Cisco simply told its consumers about its technology through traditional advertising.
Why Does Brand Storytelling in Content Improve Sales and Conversions?
Well, according to Customer Thermometer’s research, it is all tied into the way that a company makes customers feel. 64% of women and 68% of men confirmed they had felt an emotional connection to a brand before.
Consumers stated that the strongest emotions they felt towards their favorite brands were interest, trust, optimism, and admiration.
When a customer enjoys, admires, or trusts a company, they are far more likely to buy from them over and over again. This is the reason why some people will only buy Samsung phones or Nike running shoes. They trust those businesses and have loyalty (i.e. emotional connections) to those brands.
According to the same study from Customer Thermometer, many customers would willingly pay more to support a company that had the same values as them. Consumers are far more likely to buy from a brand they trust and support – effective storytelling can influence conversions.
Authentic, storytelling-type content is one of the best ways to build trust with customers. One study found that 95% of B2B buyers used a business’s content to evaluate its trustworthiness and 41% of shoppers consume three to five pieces of content before making a purchase.
Nearly half of all customers wanted to see case studies, 39% prefer webinars, and 32% wanted to see video content. All of which can be highly related to storytelling.
How to Use Brand Storytelling in a Content Marketing Strategy
To utilize storytelling in content marketing most effectively, it is best to use a mix of content mediums. As stated before, content preferences do vary. By using multiple types, you have the best chance of engaging more of your audience.
1. Social Media
Social media and storytelling are a match made in heaven.
Businesses have the ability to craft engaging stories and share them in ways that were never before possible. Since social platforms allow customers to engage directly with brands, it can help to create deeper connections.
For example, Dove has been using social media to share stories directly from their customers about accepting their skin and gaining confidence. Their #ShowUs campaign receives high engagement because it evokes positive emotions that customers now associate with Dove.
This affinity and sentiment towards business is often heavily based on the values that a company shares. When customers feel that a business promotes the same values or truly cares about its customers, they are creating an emotional reason to buy.
You can say and show a lot more in a short video clip than in a blog post – and it is much easier to keep people engaged through this medium. In fact, 72% of customers preferred to learn about a brand or product through a video than any other type of content.
However, it is important that you are not merely creating commercial-type videos if you want to utilize brand storytelling. Instead, you need to focus on topics that are bigger than the product itself.
For instance, Ben & Jerry’s published a company mission video that told the story of how the ice cream company was founded. It also focused on Ben & Jerry’s commitment to supporting family-run farms and operating a sustainable business.
3. Blog Posts
On-site blog content or featured articles on other publications is another key outlet for brand storytelling. The trick here is to make it interesting and relevant to your audiences.
Since 86% of consumers actively seek out reviews and testimonials from other customers before buying something, it is wise to weave in real-life customer stories as a form of storytelling.
For instance, Shopify shares “Success Stories” on their on-site blog that focus on entrepreneur success stories. This is still promoting their service, but it is done through effective, emotional storytelling that is inspirational to other people.
4. Interactive Content
If you are looking to really boost your content marketing ROI, consider integrating interactive content into the mix.
Interactive posts drive in four times more engagement, and viewers are seven times more likely to claim an offer or check out the product afterwards.
While quizzes are one popular method of interactive content, the best ways to use this form for brand storytelling requires a little bit more creativity and thinking outside of the content marketing box.
So, as you can see, storytelling can be used in many different ways to create a perception that connects your company to your audience. There are no set rules of right or wrong here, except to keep the purpose of each story consistent to support whatever brand perception you choose to create.